Smaller RF energy harvesting chip targets consumer designs

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By Nick Flaherty

Designed for embedding in space-constrained consumer designs like smart cards or hearing aids, the PCC114 builds on Powercast’s existing Powerharvester PCC110 receiver which has been deployed in industrial and commercial wireless power systems for seven years. Powercast used that experience to refine and reduce the size of its technology specifically for the consumer market. The PCC114 receiver chip’s footprint (1mm x 0.6mm x 0.3mm) is seven times smaller than the existing PCC110 (2mm x 2.1mm x 0.9mm) and has 20 times less volume.

A Powerharvester receiver (PCC114 or PCC110) embedded in a device harvests the RF energy sent over the air from either an “intentional” or “anticipated” RF source, then converts it to DC to directly power a batteryless device or recharge a device’s batteries. This can be an FCC-approved source such as Powercast’s PowerSpot far field transmitter that can reach up to 25m to charge enabled devices over the air when in range. 

PowerSpot can charge devices left on a countertop overnight in its charging zone, which varies with device type and power consumption. For example, power-hungry, heavily used devices like hearing aids, ear buds, game controllers, smart watches, fitness bands or headphones charge best up to 1m away; keyboards and mice up to 2m; smart cards and TV remotes up to 3m away; and low-power devices like home automation sensors up to 25m. Audible or visual alerts on the PowerSpot indicate when devices move in and out of the charge zone. 

Manufacturers can use the PowerSpot either in its standalone form or its subassembly for integration into products, or license the for their own RF transmitter.

Operating across a wide RF power (-17 to +20dBm) and frequency (10MHz to 6GHz) range, the PCC114 converts RF to DC with up to 75 percent efficiency, harvests from all modulation types, works with standard 50-ohm antennas and is RoHS compliant.  

The company expects consumer designs using this new chip to be shipping in 12 to 18 months. This chip is sold and supported directly from Powercast, which will also continue to market its existing Powerharvester PCC110 chip (SC-70 package) for less space-constrained designs.

The Powerharvester Chipset also includes the existing, complementary PCC210 boost converter IC, which works with both the PCC114 and PCC110 Powerharvester wireless power receivers. This PCC210 comes in a SOT23-6 package, can work with inputs down to 0.4V, is capable of 5.5V at 50mA, and offers resistor-programmable output voltage. Reference designs are available, and include schematics, PCB layout, bill of materials and performance data.


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